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One Year On – All Steam Ahead For Kingston Flyer

Media Release from The Kingston Flyer
14 November 2012

One Year On – All Steam Ahead For Kingston Flyer

After a year of David Bryce at the helm of the Kingston Flyer, it’s all steam ahead with whistles blowing loud and clear.

Eighteen months ago Mr Bryce bought the historic train, which operates out of the township of Kingston, near Queenstown, and rescued her from a dark and mouldering future.

As she rolls into her second successful season under his ownership she’s looking forward to hosting her first wedding celebrations and getting up a full head of steam for the second annual ‘Race the Train’ event.

“We’ve had significant interest in everything the Flyer’s up to, from all around the country,” said Mr Bryce. “It’s really heartening to see locals and out-of-towners responding so positively.”

Post-Christmas, the day for the diary is January 6, with over 300 runners and walkers from all over New Zealand and Australasia expected to race the Flyer from Fairlight to Kingston.

Organiser Adrian Bailey of Active QT said it is an event close to his heart.

“I ran a similar event against a steam train near my home town in Wales for ten years,” he said.

“While last year’s inaugural event in Kingston attracted more than two hundred runners, many have already signed up for this year’s race and then some.

“They’re coming from all over Australasia, so it’s promising to be a huge line-up of professional and social runners and a great event.

“Friends and supporters can ride the train cheering the competitors onto the finish line, and the atmosphere is just fantastic. It’s a great way to blow away the cobwebs after an over-indulgent Christmas and New Year.”

Also in January, the Flyer will celebrate her first wedding, which owner Mr Bryce said would have an additional ‘twist’.

“Not only is it the Flyer’s first wedding, but it’s her first single-sex wedding at that,” he said. “Both grooms are ardent fans of steam engine engineering, so they couldn’t think of a better setting in which to say ‘I do’.

“The Flyer is providing the pre-nuptial transport, and in case of rain we can certainly help them celebrate their wedding in style in one of our historic original carriages such as the Birdcage. I’m sure our driver will be happy to let them in on some secrets as we chuff our way between Kingston and Fairlight.”

Ironically, with railway lines either being closed or threatened with closure around New Zealand (even the Trans Alpine is under threat), the Kingston Flyer as the oldest operational, commercial train in the country has had an extraordinary revival.

The1925 locomotive ‘778’ goes out of service at the end of December. Engineers in Invercargill are putting the final touches to ‘795’, coming back with a shiny, newly-restored boiler as the perfect Christmas present for Mr Bryce.

“It’s a very expensive Christmas present to myself, but I’m not about to shy away from what’s needed to be done,” he said.

“We knew when we bought the Flyer that we were investing in her for longevity. This is about ensuring the future of our history.”

Mr Bryce said there was much to celebrate as the ‘Old Girl’ rolled into her second season.

“Many local businesses have already booked onto the Flyer for exclusive Christmas functions, and they may or may not be held up by our friendly group of horse-riding local ‘cowboys’ with guns blazing,” he said.

“People never tire of re-enacting the famous Cadbury commercial.”

Mr Bryce said Friends of the Flyer concession cards had proved extremely popular since they were introduced last September, and would make a great Christmas present.

“Queenstowners have obviously taken huge amounts of pride in having the Flyer back on the tracks, and they’re looking forward to sharing the experience with friends and family visiting over Christmas and New Year,” he said.

Train lovers can buy a Friends of the Flyer card for just $65 to support the restoration. The card entitles holders to a 50% discount on up to 10 regular fares, and complimentary tea and coffee on board the train.

For Race the Train information and registration see: www.activeqt.co.nz

About The Kingston Flyer
The Kingston Flyer is New Zealand's famous vintage steam train set in the spectacular mountain scenery of the Queenstown Lakes District. When gold was discovered in the Wakatipu district in 1862 the need to connect the district by steamships and steam trains became apparent. The railway line at last reached Kingston on July 10, 1878 and a public holiday was declared by Queenstown Borough and Lake County Councils.

The express passenger steam train known as "The Flyer" serviced Kingston-Gore on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Kingston-Invercargill on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the 1890's. During peak holiday periods she also carried passengers from Dunedin to Kingston to meet up with Lake Wakatipu steamboats connecting with the popular holiday destination of Queenstown.

The service was replaced by buses and passenger numbers declined through the 1950's. The final Kingston Flyer operated during the Easter holiday of 1957. Trains continued to run on the Waimea Plains Railway until 31 March 1971.

The New Zealand Government came up with a plan to save the historic steam train and funded its restoration in 1971. The atmosphere of the 1920's was retained and remains today featuring polished brass and steel work, white tyres, red fluted side rods, and glossy black paintwork.

The Kingston Flyer heritage service between Kingston and Lumsden continued until 1979. Today the service covers a 14km stretch of track between Kingston and Fairlight. The rails are the originals laid in 1878 but many of the 19,360 sleepers have been replaced.

The driving force and face of The Kingston Flyer was Russell Glendinning who is credited with saving and restoring the Flyer back in the 1970's. This was acknowledged when he received an MBE in 1975 New Year Honours. Russell’s career began at age 14 in Dunedin in 1953. His apprenticeship took 7 years. In 1964 he became a First Class Driver and in 1969 a Special Class Driver. Russell's passion and energy continues to this day, he still occasionally drives the train, shines the brass and can be seen regularly out maintaining the track.

© Scoop Media

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